Cleveland Browns General Manager John Dorsey and head coach Freddie Kitchens outlined several areas that they wanted to improve with this year’s roster. And one of those was the kicker position.
Incumbent Greg Joseph went 17-of-20 on field goals last year for Cleveland, but had issues with getting the ball into the end zone on kickoffs, which resulted in quite a few long run backs with unnecessary added yardage.
Dorsey then drafted Austin Seibert of Oklahoma in the fifth round of April’s NFL Draft to compete for the starting position.
Neither guy has been consistent with making field goals in training camp although Joseph has the edge. Kitchens said after the Browns 21-18 win over the Indianapolis Colts that he is not happy with the current situation. According to a report on cleveland.com, the head coach was asked whether the holder may be the issue:
“I don’t know about that. I know this, it didn’t go through the upright. I know there are no excuses coming from that room. Their job is to put the ball through the upright. I don’t care who is holding. I can go out there and hold it for them, and it better go through the upright. That is their job.”
Starting punter Britton Colquitt and backup punter Jamie Gillan were the holders on all kicks versus the Colts.
Against Indianapolis, Joseph was 1-of-1 on extra points, but missed a 53-yard field goal in the second quarter with Colquitt as the holder. The Browns had began this drive on their own 41-yard-line with quarterback Garrett Gilbert under center. The offense drove 34 yards in only 37 seconds to allow Joseph to add to the Browns’ 14-7 lead with just four seconds before the half. But the kick went wide right with plenty of leg if it had been straight.
Seibert was 2-of-2 on extra points, but he missed a 52-yard field goal that went wide left with enough distance with 2:57 left in the game. Backup punter Jamie Gillan was the holder.
Like any position on the roster, the Browns are always wanting the best production from its units. With the field goal team, passes from long snapper Charley Hughlett are accurate, the blocking has held up, and each snap has been cleanly accepted and placed ready for the boot. The only thing that has not gone completely right is that many kicks are sailing wide one side or the other with plenty of distance.
Kitchens was asked if he is concerned about the kicker situation, especially since almost the same thing occurred last season:
“I am not trying to avoid the question in relation to last season, but I am really not concerned with last season. All I am trying to do is focus on what I am seeing before me, and we need somebody who can put the ball between the two yellow poles. Those guys are continuing to work, but at the end of the day for whatever reason… Now, a lot goes into that. We put together two good drives before halftime the last two weeks. One we had a penalty on the play before the end of the half the first week and were not even able to attempt a field goal. This week, we executed well until we got down there and had a penalty that put us from what I guess would have been a 40-yarder to a 53-yarder. To me, those critical errors are just as important as the missed field goals themselves because we have to do what we can do to get these guys in a better position to make them. Are they expected to make a 53-yard field goal? Yes, they are. Am I concerned about it? No because we are not playing for real yet, but I will be. I want everyone to succeed and get better. That is what I am looking for out of all positions.”
Make no mistake about it - any kick over 50 yards is difficult. However, the game against the Colts was played indoors without any outside distractions. What will happen once games that count are played outdoors and in less than inviting environments such as Heinz Field in Pittsburgh?
Kitchens did confirm that he and Dorsey have talked about the possibility of finding more bodies to compete for the kicker position.
“We have ongoing discussion about everything. I would not just limit it to that, but that is the stuff that (General Manager) John (Dorsey) and I talk about. We are always trying to evaluate our team and get better in any area that we can.”
Last year, starting kicker Zane Gonzalez was waived after the second game and Joseph was added to the roster. Seibert has never kicked in an official NFL game, while Joseph was ranked 26th among all kickers last year.
On the roster already is Gillan, nicknamed the “Scottish Hammer”, who was a four-year starter at both punter and kicker in college, and performed all kickoff duties. Perhaps he will be placed into the kicking rotation. In Gillan’s senior season, he was 13-of-21 on field goals, which included a long of 52 yards, and 22-of-23 on extra points.
As far as kickoffs, Joseph kicks in the plus-one to plus-seven, which means anywhere from the one-yard-line out to the seven-yard-line. Seibert kicks from the plus-five to the minus-five, meaning from the five-yard-line to five yards deep into the end zone. Gillan kicks anywhere from minus-eight to minus-12. This means his kickoffs are consistently eight yards into the end zone to two yards outside the back of the end zone.
The Browns are not the only NFL club having kicker issues. Sunday, the Chicago Bears let go Elliott Fry, formerly of the Orlando Apollos of the AAF. He was teammates with current Browns backup quarterback Gilbert and running back D’Ernest Johnson.
Available free agent kickers include Cody Parkey, Matt Bryant, Phil Dawson, Sebastian Janikowski, Mike Nugent, Chandler Catanzaro, Kai Forbath, Matt McCrane, Nick Rose and Fry. Perhaps Dawson can be given a one-year extension to his one-day contract he signed earlier this year.